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“We have an enemy vigilant, intriguing, well acquainted with our defects and embarrassments. We may expect that he will make every effort 10 instil diffidences into individuals; and in the present posture of our internal affairs, he will have too plausible ground on which to tread. Our necessities have obliged us to embrace ineasures, with respect to our public credit, calculated to inspire distrust. The prepossessions on this article must naturally be against us, and it is therefore indispensable we should endeavor to remove them, by such means as will be the most obvious and striking.
“ It was with these views Congress determined on a general fund; and the one they have recommended must, upon a thorough examination, appear to have fewer inconveniences than any other.
“ It has been remarked, as an essential part of the plan, that the fund should depend on a single will. This will not be the case, unless the collection, as well as the appropriation, is under the control of the United States; for it is evident that, after the duty is agreed upon, it may, in a great measure, be defeated by an ineffectual mode of levying it. The United States have a common interest in a uniform and equally energetic collection; and not only policy, but justice to all parts of the Union, designates the utility of lodging the power of making it where the interest is common. Without this, it might, in reality, operate as a very unequal tar.
" Third Objection. That, by granting to Congress a power to collect moneys from the coinmerce of these states, indefinitely as to time and quantity, and for the expenditure of which they are not to be accountable to the states, they would become independent of their constituents. and so the proposed impost is repugnant to ihe liberty of the United States.
“Admitting the principle of this objection to be true, still it ought to have no weight in the present case, because there is no analogy between the principle
and the fact. “First. The fund proposed is sufficiently definite as to time, becauss it is only coëxtensive with the existence of the debt contracted, and to be contracted, in the course of the war. Congress are persuaded that it is as remote from the intention of their constituents to perpetuate that debt, as to extinguish it at once by a faithless neglect of providing the means to fulfil the public engagements. Their ability to discharge it in a moderate time can as little be doubted as their inclination; and the moment that debt ceases, the duty, so far as respects the present provision, ceases with it.
“The resolution recommending the duty specifies the object of it to be the discharge of the principal and interest of the debts already contracted, or which may be contracted, on the faith of the United States, for supporting the present war.
Secondly. The rate per cent. is fixed, and it is not at the option of the United States to increase it. Though the product will vary according to the variations in trade, yet, as there is this limitation of the lute, it cannot be properly said to be indefinite as to the quantity.
By the Confederation, Congress have an absolute discretion in determining the quantum of revenue requisite for the national expenditure, When this is done, nothing remains for the states, separately, but the mode of raising. No state can dispute the obligation in pay the sum demanded without a breach of the Confederation, and when the money comes into the treasury, the appropriation is the exclusive province of the
foderal go.ornment. This provision of the Confederation (without which it would be an empty form) comprehends in it the principle in its fullest latitude, which the objection under consideration treats as repugnant to the liberties of the United States; to wit, an indefinite power of prescribing the quantity of money to be raised, and of appropriating it when raised.
"If it be said that the states individually, having the collection in their own hands, may refuse a compliance with exorbitant demands, the Confederation will answer, that this is a point of which they have no constitutional liberty to judge. Such a refusal would be an exertion of power, not of right, and the same power which could disregard a requisition made on the authority of the Confederation might at any time arrest the collection of the duty.
" The same kind of responsibility which exists with respect to the expenditure of the money furnished in the forms hitherto practised, would be
equally applicable to the revenue from the imports
The truth is, the security intended to the general liberty in the Confederation, consists in the frequent election, and in the rotation of the members of Congress, by which there is a constant and effectual check upon them. This is the security which the people in every state enjoy against the usurpations of their internal governnients, and it is the true source of security in a representative republic. The government, so constituted, ought to have the means necessary to answer the end of its institution. By weakening its hands too much, it may be rendered incapable of providing for the interior harmony, or the exterior defence, of the state.
“ The measure in question, if not within the letter, is within the spirit, of the Confederation. Congress, by that, are empowered to borrow inoney for the use of the United States, and, by implication, to concert the means necessary to accomplish the end. But without insisting upon this argument, if the Confederation has not made proper provision for the exigencies of the states, it will be at all times the duty of Congress to suggest further provisions; and when their proposals are submitted to the unanimous consent of the states, they can never be charged with exceeding the bounds of their trust. Such a consent is the basis and sancvion of the Confederation, which expressly, in the 13th article, empowers Congress to agree to and propose such additional provisions.
“ The remarks hitherto made have had reference principally to the fulure prosecution of the war. There still remains an interesting light, in which the subject ought to be viewed.
“ The United States have already contracted a debt in Europe, and in this country, for which their faith is pledged. The capital of this debt can only be discharged by degrees; but a fund for this purpose, and for paying the interest annually, on every principle of policy and justice, ought to be provided. The omission will be the deepest ingratitude and cruelty to a large number of meritorious individuals, who, in the most critical periods of the war, have adventured their fortunes in supporting our independence. It would stamp the national character with udelible disgrace.
“ An annual provision for the purpose will be too precarious. If its continuance and application were certain, it would not afford complete relief. With many, the regular payment of interest, by occasional grants, would suffice; but with many more it would not. These want the use
of the principal itself, and they have a right to it; but since it is not in our power to pay off the principal, the next expedient is to fund the debt and render the evidences of it negotiable.
“ Beside the advantage to individuals from this arrangement, the active stock of the nation would be increased by the whole amount of the de mestic debt, and of course the abilities of the community to contribute to the public wants; the national credit would revive, and stand hereafter on a secure basis.
“ This was another object of the proposed duty.
“ If it be conceded that a similar fund is necessary, it can hardly be disputed that the one recommended is the most eligible. It has been already shown that it affects all parts of the community in proportion to their consumption, and has therefore the best pretensions to equality. It is the most agreeable tax to the people that can be imposed, because it is paid insensibly, and seems to be voluntary.
" It inay, perhaps, be imagined that it is unfavorable to commerce; but the contrary can easily be demonstrated. It has been seen that it does not diminish the profit of the merchant, and of course can be no diminution of his inducements to trade. It is too moderate in its amount to discourage the consumption of imported goods, and cannot, on that account, abridge the extent of importations. If it even had this effect, it would be an advantage to commerce by lessening the proportion of our imports to our exports, and inclining the balance in favor of this country.
“ The principal thing to be consulted for the advancement of commerce, is to promote exports. All impediments to these, either by way of prohibiting, or by increasing the prices of native commodities, decreasing, by that means, their sale and consumption at foreign markets, are injurious. Duties on exports have this operation. For the same reason, taxes on possessions, and the articles of our own growth or manufacture, whether in the form of a land tax, excise, or any other, are more hurtful to trade than impost duties. The tendency of all such taxes is to increase the prices of those articles which are the objects of exportation, and to enable others to undersell us abroad. The farmer, if he pays a heavy land tax, must endeavor to get more for the products of his farm. The mechanic and laborer, if they find the necessaries of life grow dearer by an excise, must endeavor to exact higher wages; and these causes will produce an increase of prices within, and operate against foreign coinmerce.
“It is not, however, to be inferred that the whole revenue ought to be drawn from imports; all extremes are to be rejected. The chief thing to be attended to is, that the weight of the taxes fall not too heavily, in the first instance, upon particular parts of the community. A judicious distribution to all kinds of taxable property is a first principle in taxation. The tendency of these observations is only to show that taxes on possessions, on articles of our own growth and manufacture, are more prejudicial to trade than duties on imports.
“The observations which conclude the letter on which these remarks are made, naturally lead to reflections that deserve the serious attention or every member of the Union. There is a happy mean between too much confidence and excessive jealousy, in which the health and prosperity of a state consist. Either extreme is a dangerous vice: the first is a temptation to men in power to arrogate more than they have a right to the latter enervates government, prevenis system in the administration defeats the most salutary measures, breeds confusion in the state, disgusts VOL. I.
and discontents among the people, and may eventually prove as fatal 10 liberty as the opposite temper.
“ It is certainly pernicious to leave any government in a situation of responsibility disproportioned to its power.
“The conduct of the war is intrusted to Congress, und the public ex.. pectation turned upon them, without any competent means at their command to satisfy the inportant trust. After the most full and sole:on deliberation, under a collective view of all the public difficulties, they recominend a measure which appears to them the corner-stone of the pub Jic safety: they see this measure suspended for near two years; partiall complied with by some of the states; rejected by one of them, and in danger, on that account, to be frustrated; the public enibarrassments ever; day increasing; the dissatisfaction of the army growing more serious, the other creditors of the public clamoring for justice; both irritated by the delay of mcasures for their present relief or future security ; the hopes of our enemies encouraged to protract the war; the zeal of oui friends depressed by an appearance of reinissness and want of exertion on our part; Congress harassed ; the national character suffering, and the national safety at the mercy of events.
“ This state of things cannot but be extremely painful to Congress, and appears to your committee to make it their duty to be urgent to obviate the evils with which it is pregnant."
Resolved, That Congress agree to the said report.
POWERS OF CONGRESS TO REGULATE COMMERCE.
FRIDAY, April 30, 1784. — Congress took into consideration the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. Gerry, Mr. Reed, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Chase, and Mr. Jefferson, to whom were referred sundry letters and papers relative to commercial matters; and the following paragraph being under debate,
“That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to vest the United States in Congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with a power to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into any of the states, except in vessels belonging to, and navigated by, citizens of the United States, or the subjects of foreign powers with whom the United States may have treaties of commerce,".
A motion was made by Mr. Howell, seconded by Mr. Ellery, to postpone the consideration thereof, in order to take up the following:
“That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to restrain, by imposts or prohibitions, any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into them respectively, except in vessels belonging to, and navigated by, citizens of the United States, or the subjects of foreign powers with whom the United States may have treaties of commerce, or the subjects of such foreign powers as may admit of a reciprocity in their trade with the citizens of these states. That it be recommended to the legislatures of the several states to prohibit the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, from inporting into them, respectively, any goods, wares, or merchandise, unless such as are the produce or manufacture of that state, kingdom, or empire, whose subjects they are."
3 No. .No. S
And on the question to postpone, for the purpose above mentioned the yeas and nays being required by Mr. Ellery, New Hampshire,........Mr. Foster,.
“ 'The trust reposed in Congress renders it their duty to be attentive to the conduct of foreign nations, and to prevent or restrain, as far as may be, all such proceedings as might prove injurious to the United States. The situation of commerce at this time claims the attention of the several states, and few objects of greater importance can present themselves to their notice. The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof; for it is the constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade.
“ Already has Great Britain adopted regulations destructive of our commerce with her West India Islands. There was reason to expect that measures so unequal, and so little calculated to promote mercantile intercourse, would not be persevered in by an enlightened nation. But these measures are growing into a system. It would be the duty of Congress, as it is their wish, to meet the attempts of Great Britain with similar restrictions on her commerce; but their powers on this head are not explicit, and the propositions made by the legislatures of the several states render it necessary to take the general sense of the Union on this subject.
“Unless the United States in Congress assembled shall be vested with powers competent to the protection of commerce, they can never command reciprocal advantages in trade; and without these, our foreign commerce must decline, and eventually be annihilated. Hence it is necessary that the states should be explicit, and fix on some effectual mode by which foreign commerce not founded on principles of equality may be restrained.
" That the United States may be enabled to secure such terms, they have
Resolved, That it be, and it hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the several states, to vest the United States in Congress assembled. for the term of fifteen years, with power to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into, or exported from, any of the states, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by, the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed treaties of commerce.